Naturalization & U.S. Citizenship: The Complete & Detailed Guide

Becoming a United States citizen is a beautiful thing for many green card holders to look forward to and apply for. Choosing to become a citizen is incredibly important and a huge decision that one must make.

There are two ways to obtain citizenship which could be through the processes of naturalization or acquisition. This article will give you a detailed guide regarding naturalization requirements, the steps needed to follow for naturalization, and the benefits of becoming a citizen of the United States.

What Is Naturalization?

Naturalization is commonly defined as the process through which a legal immigrant of the United States becomes a U.S. citizen. Certain criteria need to be met in order to begin this process.

Becoming a citizen of the U.S. has countless benefits and comes with various responsibilities. For those wondering what the eligibility requirements for naturalization are or who wish to begin the process, continue reading.

Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization

Before moving forward, you must first be eligible for naturalization. There is a list of criteria that one must meet in order to complete the Form N-400 application process and take the naturalization test successfully. These requirements include:

  • Being of age (be at least 18 years old)
  • Being a green card holder or even a permanent resident for at least five years
  • Living in the same state for at least three months before filling out the application
  • Being physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the last five years before submitting the application
  • Being able to pass the given English test and U.S. history and government exams
  • Having no criminal background and being in good standing

Benefits of Naturalization

For many, the definition of naturalization simply means gaining citizenship in the U.S. However, it’s much more than that. So, what is naturalization, and what are the benefits?

Yes, naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, but there is so much more to becoming a naturalized American than meets the eye. Some of the many benefits of naturalization are:

  • Voting rights in government elections and even running for public office
  • The ability to bring family members that are outside of the country to the United States
  • Traveling around the country and abroad with a U.S. passport
  • Being allowed to work legally in the U.S. and also within the government if wanted
  • The reduced risk of deportation and not needing the renew a green card

History of Naturalization in the U.S.

In 1790, the U.S. government passed the first naturalization law. Since then, the naturalization process has changed slightly, but the same three steps are typically followed for the most part. These three steps are:

  1. Making a declaration of intention to become a citizen: As an immigrant, you must file a petition in order to show your intentions that you wish to become a citizen and stay in the U.S.
  2. Filing the petition: This immigrant petition will likely be filed in the court located closest to where the immigrant resides. A U.S. citizen, whether that be a relative, spouse, or other eligible connection, must petition on your behalf as to why you should earn citizenship.
  3. Becoming a citizen-based on the court’s acceptance or denial of your application: Similar to today, the U.S. courts decide who gets granted citizenship. Currently, there are different documents that you must fill out, and each individual’s eligibility is determined more carefully. But, this final step has stayed consistent with the acceptance or rejection of each immigrant’s application.

The Naturalization Process

Once you have determined if you are eligible for U.S. naturalization, you can begin the formal process. This process takes more time, money, and effort than simply filling out a naturalization form. Below we will give you a detailed guide to all you need to know regarding the naturalization process.

Gather All the Necessary Documents to Submit With Your Application

Within the application for naturalization, various documents need to be correctly filled out and sent in. Here are some of the required naturalization documents that must be submitted with your application:

  • A photocopy of your permanent resident card
  • Federal tax return information for the past three years while residing in the U.S.
  • Evidence of strong ties to the U.S.
  • Criminal history, if any
  • Documentation from the tax agency in regards to your current status

It’s important to note that different documents will be required for different application cases. For instance, if you are applying for citizenship because of your marriage to a U.S. citizen, you will need to obtain these listed documents in addition to those above:

  • Proof of your spouse’s citizenship
  • Marriage certificates
  • Proof of any past divorces or spouse deaths
  • A document showing a legal name change

When filling out all the required documents, all information given must be accurate. Additional documents are needed for different cases that you might need, so doing your research is key.

Get Proper Photographs to Submit With Your Application

There are naturalization photo requirements that must be met when submitting your application. This photo must be taken within 30 days of filing your application, in full color, with a full-frontal view of your face and nothing covering your head. Once your photos are received, it’s important that you write your alien registration number on the backside.

Pay the Required Filing Fees

The naturalization fee is $725. This total will also include the mandated $85 biometrics test. Remember that completing and submitting your application correctly the first time is important because the fees are nonrefundable.

Complete a Biometrics Test

It’s required that you complete a biometrics test for naturalization. The USCIS will contact you and schedule an appointment with you in order to get your fingerprints taken.

Once you have your appointment time, you will go to the nearest USCIS office, where they will run your prints through databases to check for any criminal records and to also make sure they can confirm your identity.

The fee for this test will cost $85 and, similar to the overall application fee, is nonrefundable.

Schedule Your Naturalization Interview

Once you submit all your forms, pay the needed fees, and finish your biometrics test, you will be able to schedule an interview with USCIS.

During this interview, you will be asked countless questions about your application and then will proceed to take your naturalization test, which will be explained in more detail below.

Pass Your Naturalization Test

A large portion of the naturalization process is preparing and passing the naturalization exam. The naturalization exam tests your ability to read, speak and write English while also proving knowledge of U.S. History and government structure.

Generally, the exam consists of two parts. These two parts in more detail include:

  • An English subtest: Within the English portion of this exam, you will be tested on reading, writing, and speaking. You will be given three sentences and need to choose one to read aloud, speaking clearly and fluently. Sometimes, you might be asked to define the vocabulary used within the option you choose or summarize what you read.
  • The naturalization civics test: Here, you will be able to study possible questions but will only be asked 10. In order to pass this portion of the test, you should answer six of the 10 questions correctly.

As stated above, there are many ways you can study and prepare for the exam. Online, there are countless resources such as vocabulary cards, naturalization test practices, and all 100 questions you could be asked in the civics position of the exam.

Additionally, some qualify to skip the English test sections. Here are two possible ways that you could find exemption:

  1. You are 50 years old, or over the age of 50, and have been in the U.S. legally for at least 20 years.
  2. You are at least 55 years old or older when filing for naturalization and have legally held a green card for 15 years.

Take the Oath of Allegiance

Your naturalization oath will declare that you raise your right hand and support the U.S. above all else. You will return your permanent residence card at your naturalization oath ceremony and answer a few questions.

Upon completing this naturalization checklist, you will be a legal citizen of the United States. Typically, the naturalization process time can take up to 14 months. And you will need to renounce citizenship in your home country.

Depending on your country of original citizenship’s rules, your home country’s citizenship may need to be renounced. In many countries, you must do so in order to fully become an American citizen. Be sure to check with your home country’s regulations and wishes when it comes to becoming a naturalized citizen in the U.S.

Additionally, some will call this a naturalization ceremony. These are held for those that are becoming citizens of the U.S. These public events invite communities, schools, and families together to observe the celebration of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Naturalization Statistics

Over the last decade, the United States has granted citizenship to more than seven million immigrants. Any immigrant who wishes to apply for citizenship must show a large commitment to wanting to legally reside in the U.S.

How Many People Are Eligible for Naturalization?

Currently, there are close to 900,000 immigrants that are eligible for naturalization. This number has increased by 11% in the last few years due to how the application process works.

For all green card holders that are eligible for naturalization, all you must do is file an N-400 application for naturalization and follow the process.

How Many People Become U.S. Citizens Through Naturalization?

In 2020, close to 610,000 immigrants became naturalized citizens in the United States through the naturalization application process. Granted, this is a small decrease from the previous year, likely due to COVID-19.

Overall, there are around 45 million naturalized citizens in the U.S., making up 52% of the total immigrant population.

Why Don’t People Become U.S. Citizens?

Sure, there are plenty of benefits to becoming a citizen, and for some, the process is shameless. However, many people don’t become U.S. citizens because it’s extremely difficult.

In some cases, multiple factors deter those from becoming a citizen, such as:

  • The extended processing time
  • Financial costs and document fees
  • Difficulty in answering naturalization test questions or passing the English portion of the exam
  • The difficulty in determining eligibility
  • Not wanting to renounce your citizenship in your home country

FAQs about the Naturalization Process

When it comes to U.S. naturalization, there are questions that many have. Below are some of the most common questions that green card holders ask.

What does being a citizen by naturalization mean?

This simply means that as an immigrant of the U.S., you can follow the naturalization process, submit an application for naturalization, and, if approved, become a legal citizen of the U.S.

Can I travel during the naturalization process?

Yes, of course. There are no listed or legal restrictions on travel once you have submitted your Form N-400 application for naturalization in the United States.

Can I apply for naturalization after three years?

Typically, a green card holder must wait at least five years before becoming a citizen of the country. However, if you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you may be able to apply for naturalization early.

How long does naturalization take?

Generally, the average naturalization processing timeline will take around 14 months from start to finish.

Get Started on the Naturalization Process, Today!

As satisfying and exciting as it is to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process, much could go wrong. Even the slightest issue that arises could cost you the chance of becoming a citizen of the U.S.

Successfully becoming a legal citizen through the naturalization process requires a complete understanding of the steps involved, required fees, and what your duties are once approved. If you are beginning this process, or have any questions that need to be answered, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

At ImmigrationDirect, we will be with you every step of the way. Due to our extensive knowledge of all that’s needed in terms of the immigration paperwork when following the naturalization process, we are here to support you. Contact us today!

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